2 Corinthians 5:6-10,[11-13],14-17
Those who are planted in the house of the LORD *
shall flourish in the courts of our God;
They shall still bear fruit in old age; *
they shall be green and succulent;
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart bless you, Oh Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
I have been richly blessed by the presence of strong, Godly men in my life. They were coaches, teachers, bandleaders, priests, soldiers, and lawmen but they were all honorable men. This month we remembered the 74th anniversary of the landing at Normandy, D-Day. My elementary band teacher jumped out of plane in the dark over Saint Mer Eglise 74years ago with the 82nd Airborne. Later that morning my high school band teacher would wade ashore with the 1st Infantry Division, the Big Red One. My social studies teacher, Mr. Richardson, was a retired Army Colonel. He recommended me for West Point. It would take me hours to tell of all the men that have impacted my life but there are three that stand out.
I regret that I did spend nearly enough time with my father. He was a wealth of knowledge and ss it is he has shaped my life to a greater degree than probably any other person other than perhaps my wife. He was born in 1930 in the midst of the great depression in the middle of nowhere on the Navajo Reservation in Kayenta, Arizona. Like many young men as soon as he was old enough he began trying to enlist in the military. He tried to join the Marines at 16 but was found out. At 17 he talked his mother into giving permission for him to join the Army. He fought in the Korean War and was wounded in fierce fighting that would establish the current boundaries between North and South Korea. He did eventually get in the Marines but he retired from the Army in 1968. My family sometimes laughs at my love of John Wayne movies but I watch them because they remind me of my dad. He always had some old pithy western saying to relate in context to anything. Things like, “life is hard but it is harder when you’re stupid.” I don’t know if I would have the courage to pick up and start life again if my wife left me with two small children. He did this twice. He rarely missed any game I was playing in and you always knew he was there. I played varsity football for a high school that had nearly 4,000 students. On Friday night the stands were packed but I could here my father’s voice over the roar of the crowd yelling my name. My father was my hero and I miss that voice.
When my mother left us my dad took us to live with my Uncle Milton, Aunt Dionne and cousin Annette while he looked for work and sorted his marriage out. My Uncle Milton promised to make sure I went to church and we never missed a Sunday. Uncle Milton was a large quiet man who was gifted as a mechanic. He worked nights as an air traffic controller and I wonder if that is where I got my love of night shift. I gained my love of God, swimming, and games from Uncle Milton with some assistance from my Aunt Dionne. I also learned about hard work from him. When he retired from the FAA, I realized just how stressful his job was because he changed overnight. He went from being more irritable and subdued to relaxed, easy going, and as happy as I had ever seen him. But the stress also took a toll on his body. I remember one day in eighth grade being called to the office to find my dad waiting to tell me Uncle Milton had died of a heart attack. I only knew my uncle 7 years but he introduced me to God and taught me about life and death.
I met my father-in-law my last year at West Point. He was incredibly gracious and welcoming to a young man who was dating his daughter. From the very start he treated me like a member of his family and I came to love him like my own father. Chuck was a fascinating man. While my dad was fighting in Korea on the ground, Chuck was a navigator on an Air Force cargo plane flying runs over the Atlantic where he put his sharp mind to work improving the flight routes for their charts. After his military time he finished his education gaining a doctorate in music and becoming a musician and college professor. Not one to turn his nose up at hard work, he also worked in the oil fields when he lost tenure during the early eighties returning to teaching where he would retire eventually. He loved life and lived it joyously drawing everyone around him into the fun. He was fond of spoonerisms and bad jokes and often his quick wit was lost on those to slow to keep up. He showed me much of what I know about love, especially loving daughters as he was also gifted with three lovely girls. He also showed me how to live with grief when his wife, Anne died.
These three men were not perfect but they revealed much of what I understand about God and life. They reflected the image of a Father in heaven who delights in his children and is faithful to keep his promises. They were all complex men but they lived simply and honestly without a lot of frills. They worked hard to care for their families sacrificing without any grumbles or regrets. They lived to bring life to those they loved, pouring that life into everyone that God placed in their path. This is what it means to be a father whether you have been gifted with your own children or not. These men all lived out the image of God and his Kingdom that we find in our readings today.
“The kingdom of God is as if someone ( a father) would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. “ Jesus, a image of our Father in heaven, tells a parable about the nature of the Kingdom in the world which I also believe reveals an image of how Godly men, fathers at heart, pour themselves into the lives of those God has given into their hands. These men plant seeds in the hearts of the next generation and nourish those seeds with their time and attention. Out of those seeds bloom young adults encouraged and given an expanded vision of what is possible if they only work hard and love others.
Perhaps fatherhood can be compared to a mustard seed which when it is sown grows into the greatest of all shrubs? No one needs to tell you what a good father looks like, really. These men are the ones that everyone flocks to for wisdom and blessing and protection. Others live in their shadow praying that they might someday reach to such heights. The wonder is that these men don’t feel intimidated or jealous of the competition but live for the opportunity to share what they have learned so that others might rise higher, go farther, grow stronger.
This is why in August I will start a new adventure in Arizona accepting a promotion to supervise younger agents. If I would be true to the men that have so richly blessed me how could I do any less? As Paul notes, “if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.” I know that many of the agents I work with think I am out of my mind. By all accounts you would think I was worn out and ready to call it quits after almost thirty years but day-by-day I find myself invigorated and filled with a desire to share my blessings. I am a new creation. Yes, I would rather be at home with the Lord but it is my aim to please Him and the men who have blessed me.
As we celebrate this Father’s Day it is my hope that you spend time with your fathers if possible and remember them if they have passed from this earth. More importantly I pray that you will spend time with your Father who is in heaven. That is really what worship is all about. There is a mystery to the full reality of worship but at it’s essence it is about being in God’s presence, spending time with our Father. There is no magic in our prayers, or music or rituals. All of those things are just foofarah, window dressing. God simply loves us and would be with us choosing to give his children what is best for them. That is the nature of fatherhood and what the world truly needs. May we blessed with men, who like their Father in heaven, are ever ready to plants seeds and encourage the lives of others. Amen.